I’m standing in a small aisle between sets, voices buzz. Violinist Allen Russell just led us through a pleading progression accompanied by Pat Reinholz (Cello), Rick Aaron (flute), John Simons (double bass), Gabriel Hammer (drums), amazingly coherent for being unrehearsed, a quintet previously unacquainted.
I hear a delicate voice behind me, comically high pitched and soft through the conversations, in a whisper an unmistakably noticeable, “Excuse me”, almost mocking Betty Boop. I make way, turning a shoulder to see a stubbly faced guy in thick trapezoidal plastic framed glasses, much more surly than his voice ever would let on. He’s carrying musical things to the stage in the Okka performance space, Sugar Maple’s conclave for jazz music. David Pederson wouldn’t need much, other than his voice for his performance section.
On first Sunday’s since March, Unrehearsed MKE sewed together traditional improvisational jazz with whatever happened to musically come up. Its most recent installment reached avant garde in a fitful finally. Unrehearsed MKE breaths life into Milwaukee’s jazz faithful, who largely go about their creative way without a “scene”. I expect local jazz artists mostly like it that way, but what musician doesn’t enjoy an audience. The twist in the Unrehearsed MKE’s open format is that each grouping of composers and musicians have never rehearsed or in many cases even met prior to their set.
The final ensemble gets situated. Jay Anderson (tenor sax), Steve Gallam (alto sax), and Timothy Russell (drums/percussion) join Pederson (vocals) on the bandstand. Pederson opens, embarking in a gap in the intro, chirping a light whistle imitating a small song bird, self-qued, with virtuosity. Anderson and Gallam chase on Sax behind Russell’s rhythm variations, an intriguing tandem of soul and moxie. They alternate and weave their notes rapping patterned layers in the sound scape.
Another section arrives and Pederson darts away then toward the microphone delivering a deep a growling vocal didgeridoo, Timothy Russell intensely hunches over the drum kit with two palm cymbals searching and finding his portion of the beat, nicking and knocking the drum heads. Pederson proceeds, scatting, inflecting and modulating his vocals, aided by expressive body movements conveying emotion content going into every utterance. He works in traditional sung melodies occasionally, displaying a true ear for jazz singing’s’ tone and timing. Symphonic and razor-sharp, this quartet channeled a piece of Beat-era magic pulled from a damp, smokey space in the Village, with an alley entry.
Julianne Frey (vocals), Barry Paul Clark (double bass/electronics), and Michael Bettine (percussion/gongs/hand drums) christened the night’s performances in the first grouping.
Another Good Taste
Unrehearsed MKE can safely be added to the menu of enjoyable offerings pouring at Sugar Maple. Sugar Maple boasts 60 craft beers on tap, served by some of the wittiest bar tenders around. Unrehearsed MKE is slated for first Sunday’s at 7:30p.